The last year has been tough for Samsung (NASDAQOTH:SSNLF) investors. In its most recent quarter, Samsung's profit dropped to $4.35 billion from $7.8 billion in last year's corresponding quarter. In the all-important mobile division that's responsible for over 50% of revenue, revenue dropped 20% year over year while operating profit dropped 50%.
More recently, however, there's been a change in tone from Seoul in regard to the company's future. After the prior-gen Galaxy S5 smartphone failed to catch on in a meaningful way and performed poorly compared to the Galaxy S3 and Galaxy S4, management appears to be strikingly upbeat in regards to the newest-gen Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge models. Recently, mobile division VP Park Jin-young predicted sales more akin to the prior models than the Galaxy S5.
The Galaxy S6 was a design departure from Samsung. Most notably, the company abandoned the plastic design, removable battery, and SD slot of previous models in order to present a sleek, unibody design eerily reminiscent of Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone. And if recent reports are true, it appears Samsung is keeping its high-end design strategy mostly intact for the next generation of its tablets as well.
Galaxy Tab S2 will be announced soon
If the rumors from Sammobile are true, Samsung's next-gen tablet line, the Galaxy Tab S2, will come in both 8-inch and 9.7-inch sizes. Overall, there will be four variants, with each size having Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi + LTE options.
Perhaps more intriguing, however, are Samsung's design changes. The company appears to be replacing the plastic body of the Galaxy Tab S with a metal frame, in an attempt to compete with the high-end design Apple's iPad is known for. Unlike the Galaxy S6 smartphone, Samsung is reportedly keeping the SD memory slot in this tablet.
For raw processing power, Samsung's tablet continues its spec advantage. While the newest CPU stats haven't been released, the previous-gen Wi-Fi model sported an octa-core, 1.9 GHz quad + 1.3 GHz quad-core processor. The new unit is rumored to sport 3GB RAM, matching the prior-gen figure, and has an 8-megapixel primary and 2.1-megapixel front-facing camera. On all these features and specs, the Galaxy Tab S2 meets (primary camera) or exceeds (all others) the iPad's features and specs.
An ecosystem play
Recently, it appears the tablet market is becoming increasingly bifurcated. Low-end tablets are essentially mobile browsers and Internet access devices, while at the high end, users are looking for experience-oriented systems that combine both specs and ecosystems.
Apple has been able to own the high-end market -- not on the strength of its processing capability, but due to its comprehensive, solutions-oriented capability. Apple's able to do this more effectively than Android-based vendors because it owns its ecosystem whereas Android is a vendor-agnostic construct.
That said, the tablet market overall hasn't been kind to Apple recently. iPad shipments have repeatedly fallen short of subdued analyst expectations amid low-end competition, a longer-than-expected upgrade cycle, and cannibalization from larger-screen iPhones.
Last calendar year, IDC found that Apple's iPad shipments fell 14.6%. Samsung actually increased shipments on a year-over-year basis by 1.1%, but both vendors lost market share due to competition from varied, mostly low-cost, vendors as the catch-all category of "others" jumped from 34.6% to 43.6% market share.
In the end, Samsung's newest Galaxy S2 tablet will probably not be an iPad killer, as it lacks the differentiating features to drive potential high-end shoppers away from Apple's iPad and ecosystem, but the company's new sleek design should sell well within the greater Android community.